Running a publishing and printing company means you need space to store the fruits of your labours.

And space is something XtraSpace has a lot of, which is why Stanley Sibanda warehouses the books his company publishes at XtraSpace’s Thora Crescent Road storage facilities in Wynberg, Johannesburg, where he also has offices. He knows his product is kept safe while he gets on with building the business.

It’s a tough business, publishing. But Stanley Sibanda and his partners at Ilima Publishers and Printers – which publishes educational, children’s, academic and general publications – are holding their own in this small, but highly competitive sector.

“It is dominated by old and established international companies, which makes it harder for small players like ourselves,” Stanley explains. “We have fierce competition indeed.”

But Ilima Publishers has an ace in the hole, says Stanley. “Our publishing company is 100% black-owned in an industry that is virtually white-owned, and that makes our company stand out a bit. It gives us an edge in business. That’s a narrative that my partners are pushing as well,” he says.

Stanley and his partners (who mostly have a background in publishing) started the business after identifying a small gap in the industry. “We organised funding first, which was a bit of a challenge. We then got to work.”

Stanley says finding funding for the venture really put them to the test. “Putting together a team with experience was another tricky part,” he says, “and setting up an office and getting the equipment for the office” had its moments too.

“Our growth hasn’t been as swift as we have envisaged, but we are happy with the progress,” says Stanley. “We are seeing steady growth; we’ve moved to bigger offices and hired more staff too.”

Stanley says he’s inspired by the stories of business people who have made it through all sorts of challenges, be they black or white, local or international.

It’s the drive to succeed, understanding the business you’re in, planning your moves, implementing them, and making real your vision that matters.

And in a country like South Africa, desperate for entrepreneurs and growth, it’s never been more important. As Stanley says, “Entrepreneurship is key to growing our economy and solving other challenges that face our country.”

Stanley’s advice and learnings

What are the three most important lessons you learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Have a thick skin and persevere.
  3. Be flexible.

In hindsight, what would you do differently?

There is very little we could have done differently. Our growth path was pretty much planned. We have always avoided biting off more than we could chew. A keen awareness of our capacity has always been pivotal in our decision-making.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out now?

For any aspirant entrepreneur, my one most important piece of advice would be “Hang in there”.

Any other insights?

Learn to say NO!

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Stanley's Story